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object:1.02.9 - Conclusion and Summary
book class:Isha Upanishad
author class:Sri Aurobindo
Conclusion and Summary

THE ISHA Upanishad is one of the more ancient of the
Vedantic writings in style, substance and versification,
subsequent certainly to the Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka
and perhaps to the Taittiriya and Aitareya, but certainly the most
antique of the extant metrical Upanishads. Upanishadic thought
falls naturally into two great periods; in one, the earlier, it still
kept close to its Vedic roots, reflected the old psychological system of the Vedic Rishis and preserved what may be called their
spiritual pragmatism; in the other and later, in which the form
and thought became more modern and independent of early
symbols and origins, some of the principal elements of Vedic
thought and psychology begin to be omitted or to lose their
previous connotation and the foundations of the later ascetic
and anti-pragmatic Vedanta begin to appear. The Isha belongs
to the earlier or Vedic group. It is already face to face with
the problem of reconciling human life and activity with the
Monistic standpoint and its large solution of the difficulty is one
of the most interesting passages of Vedantic literature. It is the
sole Upanishad which offered almost insuperable difficulties to
the extreme illusionism and anti-pragmatism of Shankaracharya
and it was even, for this reason, excised from the list of authoritative Upanishads by one of his greatest followers.

The principle it follows throughout is the uncompromising
reconciliation of uncompromising extremes. Later thought
took one series of terms, - the World, Enjoyment, Action, the
Many, Birth, the Ignorance, - and gave them a more and more
secondary position, exalting the opposite series, God, Renunciation, Quietism, the One, Cessation of Birth, the Knowledge,

until this trend of thought culminated in Illusionism and the
idea of existence in the world as a snare and a meaningless
burden imposed inexplicably on the soul by itself, which must
be cast aside as soon as possible. It ended in a violent cutting
of the knot of the great enigma. This Upanishad tries instead
to get hold of the extreme ends of the knots, disengage and
place them alongside of each other in a release that will be at
the same time a right placing and relation. It will not qualify or
subordinate unduly any of the extremes, although it recognises
a dependence of one on the other. Renunciation is to go to the
extreme, but also enjoyment is to be equally integral; Action has
to be complete and ungrudging, but also freedom of the soul
from its works must be absolute; Unity utter and absolute is the
goal, but this absoluteness has to be brought to its highest term
by including in it the whole infinite multiplicity of things.
So great is this scruple in the Upanishad that having so
expressed itself in the formula "By the Ignorance having crossed
over death by the Knowledge one enjoys Immortality" that Life
in the world might be interpreted as only a preliminary to an
existence beyond, it at once rights the balance by reversing the
order in the parallel formula "By dissolution having crossed
over death by birth one enjoys Immortality", and thus makes
life itself the field of the immortal existence which is the goal
and aspiration of all life. In this conclusion it agrees with the
early Vedic thought which believed all the worlds and existence
and non-existence and death and life and immortality to be here
in the embodied human being, there evolvent, there realisable
and to be possessed and enjoyed, not dependent either for acquisition or enjoyment on the renunciation of life and bodily
existence. This thought has never entirely passed out of Indian
philosophy, but has become secondary and a side admission not
strong enough to qualify seriously the increasing assertion of the
extinction of mundane existence as the condition of our freedom
and our sole wise and worthy aim.

The pairs of opposites successively taken up by the Upanishad
and resolved are, in the order of their succession:
1. The Conscious Lord and phenomenal Nature.
2. Renunciation and Enjoyment.
3. Action in Nature and Freedom in the Soul.
4. The One stable Brahman and the multiple Movement.
5. Being and Becoming.
6. The Active Lord and the indifferent Akshara Brahman.
7. Vidya and Avidya.
8. Birth and Non-Birth.
9. Works and Knowledge.
These discords are thus successively resolved:

1. Phenomenal Nature is a movement of the conscious Lord. The
object of the movement is to create forms of His consciousness
in motion in which He as the one Soul in many bodies can take
up his habitation and enjoy the multiplicity and the movement
with all their relations.1

2. Real integral enjoyment of all this movement and multiplicity
in its truth and in its infinity depends upon an absolute renunciation; but the renunciation intended is an absolute renunciation
of the principle of desire founded on the principle of egoism and
not a renunciation of world-existence.2 This solution depends
on the idea that desire is only an egoistic and vital deformation of the divine Ananda or delight of being from which the
1 This is also the view of the Gita and generally accepted.
2 This again is the central standpoint of the Gita, which, however, admits also the

renunciation of world-existence. The general trend of Vedantic thought would accept
the renunciation of desire and egoism as the essential but would hold that renunciation of
egoism means the renunciation of all world-existence, for it sees desire and not Ananda
as the cause of world-existence.

world is born; by extirpation of ego and desire Ananda again
becomes the conscious principle of existence. This substitution is
the essence of the change from life in death to life in immortality.
The enjoyment of the infinite delight of existence free from ego,
founded on oneness of all in the Lord, is what is meant by the
enjoyment of Immortality.

3. Actions are not inconsistent with the soul's freedom. Man is
not bound by works, but only seems to be bound. He has to recover the consciousness of his inalienable freedom by recovering
the consciousness of unity in the Lord, unity in himself, unity
with all existence.3 This done, life and works can and should
be accepted in their fullness; for the manifestation of the Lord
in life and works is the law of our being and the object of our

4. What then of the Quiescence of the Supreme Being and how
is persistence in the Movement compatible with that Quiescence
which is generally recognised as an essential condition of the
supreme Bliss?
The Quiescence and the Movement are equally one Brahman and the distinction drawn between them is only a phenomenon of our consciousness. So it is with the idea of space
and time, the far and the near, the subjective and the objective, internal and external, myself and others, one and many. Brahman,
the real existence, is all these things to our consciousness, but
in itself ineffably superior to all such practical distinctions. The
Movement is a phenomenon of the Quiescence, the Quiescence
itself may be conceived as a Movement too rapid for the gods,
that is to say, for our various functions of consciousness to follow
in its real nature. But it is no formal, material, spatial, temporal
3 This truth would, again, be generally admitted, but not the conclusion that is drawn
from it.
movement, only a movement in consciousness. Knowledge sees
it all as one, Ignorance divides and creates oppositions where
there is no opposition but simply relations of one consciousness
in itself. The ego in the body says, "I am within, all else is
outside; and in what is outside, this is near to me in Time and
Space, that is far." All this is true in present relation; but in
essence it is all one indivisible movement of Brahman which is
not material movement but a way of seeing things in the one

5. Everything depends on what we see, how we look at existence in our soul's view of things. Being and Becoming, One and
Many are both true and are both the same thing: Being is one,
Becomings are many; but this simply means that all Becomings
are one Being who places Himself variously in the phenomenal
movement of His consciousness. We have to see the One Being,
but we have not to cease to see the many Becomings, for they
exist and are included in Brahman's view of Himself. Only, we
must see with knowledge and not with ignorance. We have to realise our true self as the one unchangeable, indivisible Brahman.
We have to see all becomings as developments of the movement
in our true self and this self as one inhabiting all bodies and
not our body only. We have to be consciously, in our relations
with this world, what we really are, - this one self becoming
everything that we observe. All the movement, all energies, all
forms, all happenings we must see as those of our one and real
self in many existences, as the play of the Will and Knowledge
and Delight of the Lord in His world-existence.
We shall then be delivered from egoism and desire and the
sense of separate existence and therefore from all grief and
delusion and shrinking; for all grief is born of the shrinking
of the ego from the contacts of existence, its sense of fear,
weakness, want, dislike, etc.; and this is born from the delusion of separate existence, the sense of being my separate ego
exposed to all these contacts of so much that is not myself.

Get rid of this, see oneness everywhere, be the One manifesting Himself in all creatures; ego will disappear; desire born of
the sense of not being this, not having that, will disappear; the
free inalienable delight of the One in His own existence will
take the place of desire and its satisfactions and dissatisfactions.4 Immortality will be yours, death born of division will be

6. The Inactive and the Active Brahman are simply two aspects
of the one Self, the one Brahman, who is the Lord. It is He
who has gone abroad in the movement. He maintains Himself
free from all modifications in His inactive existence. The inaction is the basis of the action and exists in the action; it is
His freedom from all He does and becomes and in all He does
and becomes. These are the positive and negative poles of one
indivisible consciousness. We embrace both in one quiescence
and one movement, inseparable from each other, dependent on
each other. The quiescence exists relatively to the movement,
the movement to the quiescence. He is beyond both. This is a
different point of view from that of the identity of the Movement
and Quiescence which are one in reality; it expresses rather
their relation in our consciousness once they are admitted as a
practical necessity of that consciousness. It is obvious that we
also by becoming one with the Lord would share in this biune
conscious existence.5

7. The knowledge of the One and the knowledge of the Many
are a result of the movement of the one consciousness, which
4 In the ordinary view all this would be admitted, but the practical possibility of maintaining this state of consciousness and birth in the world together would be doubted.
5 In the ordinary view the Jiva cannot exist in both at the same time; his dissolution is
into the Quiescence and not into unity with the Lord in the action and inaction.
sees all things as One in their truth-Idea but differentiates them
in their mentality and formal becoming. If the mind (Manishi) absorbs itself in God as the formal becoming (Paribhu)
and separates itself from God in the true Idea (Kavi), then
it loses Vidya, the knowledge of the One, and has only the
knowledge of the Many which becomes no longer knowledge
at all but ignorance, Avidya. This is the cause of the separate
Avidya is accepted by the Lord in the Mind (Manishi) in order to develop individual relations to their utmost in all the possibilities of division and its consequences and then through these
individual relations to come back individually to the knowledge
of the One in all. That knowledge has remained all along unabrogated in the consciousness of the true seer or Kavi. This seer
in ourselves stands back from the mental thinker; the latter, thus
separated, has to conquer death and division by a developing
experience as the individual Inhabitant and finally to recover by
the reunited knowledge of the One and the Many the state of
Immortality. This is our proper course and not either to devote
ourselves exclusively to the life of Avidya or to reject it entirely
for motionless absorption in the One.

8. The reason for this double movement of the Thinker is that
we are intended to realise immortality in the Birth. The self is
uniform and undying and in itself always possesses immortality.
It does not need to descend into Avidya and Birth to get that
immortality of Non-Birth; for it possesses it always. It descends
in order to realise and possess it as the individual Brahman in
the play of world-existence. It accepts Birth and Death, assumes
the ego and then dissolving the ego by the recovery of unity
realises itself as the Lord, the One, and Birth as only a becoming
of the Lord in mental and formal being; this becoming is now
governed by the true sight of the Seer and, once this is done,
becoming is no longer inconsistent with Being, birth becomes a
means and not an obstacle to the enjoyment of immortality by
the lord of this formal habitation.6 This is our proper course and
not to remain for ever in the chain of birth and death, nor to
flee from birth into a pure non-becoming. The bondage does not
consist in the physical act of becoming, but in the persistence
of the ignorant sense of the separate ego. The Mind creates the
chain and not the body.

9. The opposition between works and knowledge exists as long
as works and knowledge are only of the egoistic mental character. Mental knowledge is not true knowledge; true knowledge
is that which is based on the true sight, the sight of the Seer,
of Surya, of the Kavi. Mental thought is not knowledge, it is
a golden lid placed over the face of the Truth, the Sight, the
divine Ideation, the Truth-Consciousness. When that is removed,
sight replaces mental thought, the all-embracing truth-ideation,
Mahas, Veda, Drishti, replaces the fragmentary mental activity.
True Buddhi (Vijnana) emerges from the dissipated action of the
Buddhi which is all that is possible on the basis of the sensemind, the Manas. Vijnana leads us to pure knowledge (Jnana),
pure consciousness (Chit). There we realise our entire identity
with the Lord in all at the very roots of our being.
But in Chit, Will and Seeing are one. Therefore in Vijnana
or truth-ideation also which comes luminously out of Chit, Will
and Sight are combined and no longer as in the mind separated
from each other. Therefore when we have the sight and live in
the truth-consciousness, our will becomes the spontaneous law
of the truth in us and, knowing all its acts and their sense and
objective, leads straight to the human goal, which was always
the enjoyment of the Ananda, the Lord's delight in self-being,
the state of Immortality. In our acts also we become one with
all beings and our life grows into a representation of oneness,
6 This is the stumbling-block to the ordinary philosophies which are impregnated with
the idea of the illusoriness of the world, even when they do not go the whole way with
the Mayavada. Birth, they would say, is a play of ignorance, it cannot subsist along with
entire knowledge.

truth and divine joy and no longer proceeds on the crooked path
of egoism full of division, error and stumbling. In a word, we
attain to the object of our existence which is to manifest in itself
whether on earth in a terrestrial body and against the resistance
of Matter or in the worlds beyond or enter beyond all world the
glory of the divine Life and the divine Being.

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